With apologies to Denethor, the steward of Gondor (in The Lord of the Rings), 'stewardship' is a term not often used in everyday secular conversation. Stewards make many appearances in scripture: Joseph was the steward of potiphar (Genesis 39), St. Paul refers to us as 'stewards of the mysteries of God' (1 Corinthians 4:1), and Jesus tells a memorable parable of a dishonest steward (Luke 16). In these contexts, a steward is someone left in the care of another's household, responsibilities, and/or possessions. The steward must always give an account to his or her master for the way in which he or she has handled these duties.
Stewardship is a good metaphor for life in Christ. Our master has entrusted us with time, talent, and possessions during this life - at the end of which, we will need to make an account of our stewardship. How is it that we've used what God has entrusted to us? In this spirit, stewardship ministries, committees, and programs have sprung up in many parishes and dioceses across the continent. These groups and ministries exist with the intention of challenging the people of God to recognize their time, talents, and treasure as a gift from God... and to return them to Him as a sign of our gratitude for these same gifts. It's a big challenge that has the ability to engage and awaken all of us who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday. In my experience, the fruits of stewardship have been limited because it's only discussed on ministry sign-up Sunday, or when the annual parish financial statement is presented. What is needed is resources that challenge us to look at stewardship on a more personal, more regular basis. This is precisely the goal of Tracy Earl Welliver's book, Everyday Stewardship. Welliver states "One of the greatest mistakes we can make in life is thinking that as we grow older, maturity is something that just happens naturally" (page 16), and this book is intended to be a tool to help attain greater spiritual maturity. It contains more than 60 reflections on stewardship each of which follows the same fort of pattern. First there is an excerpt from scripture, which is followed by a brief commentary, an idea to put this reflection into action, and a question which is meant to stretch the mind and the heart. He then leaves a 'doodle box' left for those who would like to journal, scribble, draw - it's a place to start responding to the question.
These reflections center on Welliver's 6 characteristics of an 'everyday steward': one who is mindful, prayerful, grateful, gracious committed, and accountable. He describes them as follows:
This book is a good and practical resource to take stewardship that step beyond a call for volunteers or more money. Welliver's commentaries come from the fruit of his own life in Christ - and are both accessible for someone beginning the journey and substantial enough for someone who is already a good way down the road. I particularly appreciated the practical applications of Welliver's writing - stewardship can be the service we offer to our parish community, the quiet time we take for prayerful contemplation, and the making of a sandwich for a child's lunch. In addition to the six characteristics mentioned above, he also leads us to reflect on our notable liturgical seasons (Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter) and the life of Mary, the Mother of God. I found these reflections to be particularly beautiful - pages I hope to revisit to help bring some more practical meaning to those seasons in the liturgical year.
For anyone looking for a resource or a faith study that has a practical & hands on application for your life in Christ, then Tracy Earl Welliver's Everyday Stewardship just might be a good book for you.
(Mike Landry is a husband, father, & Chaplain who serves ten schools west of Edmonton, AB. You can read more from him at www.thirdplaceproject.com.)
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